Game: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente vs. Atlas Fútbol Club
Date: Friday, April 6th
Time: 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, 2:00 a.m. UTC
Venue: Estadio Caliente (Tijuana, B.C.)
Referees: REF: Fernando Hernandez Gomez, AR1: José Santana Martínez, AR2: Israel Valenciano Torres, 4TH: Uriel Olvera Rios
All-time record: Tijuana holds the all-time record against Atlas, having won four, lost two, and drawn seven in Liga MX play.
After a sub-par performance against relegation candidates Veracruz (4W 3D 6L), Club Tijuana (4W 5D 4L) are clinging to the eighth and final Liguilla spot with just four games left. Currently tied with Puebla and Pumas, they’re currently over UNAM by virtue of goal differential and can use any points they get. They’ll have another opportunity against a bad club when Atlas FC (3W 1D 9L) comes to town tonight.
The good news for Tijuana is that they’ll get Damián Musto back from his red card suspension and should be able to play their best eleven men for the first time in recent memory. Musto was replaced by Alejandro Guido, who suffered a combination of heat stroke and an anxiety or panic attack during the match against Veracruz and had to come off in the 41st minute. Guido was in turn replaced by Luis Chávez, and Guido’s status for the match remains uncertain.
Manager Diego Cocca also will have a healthy Gustavo “Pantera” Bou, who put in a 30 minute shift against Tiburones Rojos. It remains to be seen if Bou will be able to start or will be an early sub again, however he was shown participating in training on Xolos social media accounts this week.
Atlas comes to town having pulled off a 3-2 upset of Santos Laguna thanks in part to a brace by ex-Xolos forward Milton Caraglio. Caraglio has six of Atlas’s thirteen goals, putting the Argentine in a tie for fifth place in Liga MX with Carlos González, Lucas Cavallini, and Mauro Boselli.
Atlas bested Santos by being able to drop back into the gaps and disrupting Santos’ tendency to play long, cross-field passes to generate offense. Xolos relies much more heavily on a high-press defense and a more north-south offensive scheme, which will really pressure Atlas full backs Daniel Arreola and Stiven Barreiro. Atlas may respond playing a five man back line, dropping Rafa Márquez from a defensive midfielder to a center back when Atlas loses possession.
On the other side of things, look for Xolos full backs Damián Pérez and Omar Mendoza to have their hands full trying to limit the amount of crosses that Atlas can float into the box. Caraglio’s strength lies in his aerial abilities and physicality, however Pablo Aguilar should be able to match up well against Caraglio. Atlas also might be missing Leiton Jiménez and Luis Reyes, both of whom the club reported were injured.
But both of these teams are coming off of weeks where they did not perform as expected. Xolos should have had an easy time with lowly Veracruz, while Atlas should have just rolled over for Santos. This is Liga MX after all, where the expected is rarely what transpires.